On the 6th of November 2020, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Lebanese politician, head of the Free Patriotic Movement party since 2015, and son in law of the President of the Lebanese republic, Michel Aoun. Their motive was that Bassil was at the head of corruption in the Lebanese government. On the 8th of November, documents of a Lawsuit filed against Bassil for kidnapping and torture, dating back to October 27th were published by the Lebanese media. That same day, United States’ authorities announced that further sanctions would be imposed on Lebanon’s corrupt officials. In the eyes of most Lebanese citizens, this is the start of a war on corruption, but is the United States’ aim truly to rid Lebanon of its corrupt governing class, or is this just a means to an end?
United States Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stated that the corruption in the Lebanese political system is “exemplified” by Bassil, and further announces that these sanctions are the United States’ way of showing its support to the Lebanese people in their endeavor to reform their corrupt system. No matter how comforting these words may sound, Lebanese citizens are no strangers to hidden agendas.
So, taking a closer look into this matter and further analyzing what these sanctions might truly be aiming to do, it is essential to take into account the alliance of the Free Patriotic Movement to the powerful Shia movement known as Hezbollah. This political party has been in continuous conflict with the neighboring Israeli Forces, who are in turn closely allied to the United States. The latter has been in confrontation with Iran for several years now. There is a clear front of battle that can be seen here, comprising the United States and Israel on one side, and Iran and Hezbollah on the other side, seen as Hezbollah is heavily backed by the Iranian government, with very close relations tying the two up. And in the middle, is Lebanon serving as their conflict’s no man’s land.
This alliance between the FPM1 and Hezbollah is a liability of Hezbollah’s, as they are easier to target without causing too much trouble. By targeting one of the most hated figures in Lebanon, the United States is able to ensure that they are not confronted with any sort of opposition from the Lebanese citizens, but they are also able to weaken one of Hezbollah’s closest allies, which in return is a thorn in the latter’s side. The bottom line being, these sanctions could simply be a war on corruption in Lebanon, or a means of applying pressure subliminally on Tehran through their Lebanese pawn.
Hezbollah’s leadership first addressed these sanctions as a way for the US to infiltrate internal affairs. The United States government responded assuring that these sanctions were solely solicited to fight the corruption instigated by Bassil. This penalization by the Trump administration has been performed under the Global Magnitsky Act, meaning that the United States’ authorities can freeze Bassil’s assets on US soil on grounds of human rights violation and corruption.
Pr. Aoun has requested proof of the allegations made against his son in law. A video of Aoun stating that he would resign if any member of his family is proven to be corrupt has resurged, and the Lebanese people are conflicted about what is happening, happy to regain some hope, but also fearing the uncertainties of these times, not knowing what to expect.
1 Free Patriotic Movement
– Collège Notre Dame De Jamhour, Promotion 2020.
– IE University, Bachelor in Philosophy, Politics, Law, and Economics, Class of 2024.
– Writer in the politics section of KALAM.